Instructional Alignment as a Measure of Teaching Quality

Article abstract: “Recent years have seen the convergence of two major policy streams in U.S. K–12 education: standards/accountability and teacher quality reforms. Work in these areas has led to the creation of multiple measures of teacher quality, including measures of their instructional alignment to standards/assessments, observational and student survey measures of pedagogical quality, and measures of teachers’ contributions to student test scores. This article is the first to explore the extent to which teachers’ instructional alignment is associated with their contributions to student learning and their effectiveness on new composite evaluation measures using data from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching study. Finding surprisingly weak associations, we discuss potential research and policy implications for both streams of policy.”

Content Comments 

This is a timely research study given the interest and growing use of value added measures of teacher quality. The quality of research is high, the research questions themselves are important ones, and the study helps to fill a major gap in the link between instructional alignment and measures of teacher quality. The communications quality is on par with what can be expected in a research study, and while the statistics and length of the article will be of more interest to other researchers rather than practitioners, the findings have strong relevancy and potential utilization for both. The following is a summary of the authors’ findings, which although disappointing to the researchers themselves, are perhaps not totally surprising. "These results provide, at best, modest evidence of an interactive effect of alignment and pedagogical quality. Simply put, the correlations of value-added with observational measures of pedagogical quality, student survey measures, and instructional alignment were small. Low correlations raise questions about the validity of high-stakes (e.g., performance evaluation) or low-stakes (e.g., instructional improvement) inferences made on the basis of value-added assessment data. At a minimum, these results suggest it may be fruitless for teachers to use state test VAMs to inform adjustments to their instruction. Furthermore, this interpretation raises the question—If VAMs are not meaningfully associated with either the content or quality of instruction, what are they measuring? Especially as standardized tests are used for an increasing array of purposes, including evaluating the performance of individual teachers, it is essential that researchers verify that tests can indeed detect differences in what and how well teachers teach.”